Friday, May 24, 2013
Last Updated: 23 May 15:02 PM IST
2 July 2010
Shoma A Chatterji is left mesmerised by the performance of Tagore numbers alongside rock and folk classics like Another Brick in the Wall and American Pie at a pub
Taking Tagore out of conventional performance spaces like the proscenium stage common to Bengali cultural entertainment could spell blasphemy for many purist lovers of Tagore. Is it necessary to draw Rabindranath Tagore out of the quintessentially Bengali identity and bring his creations to a nightclub of a famous city hotel? “No, never’” purists would chorus. “Why not?” asks ideator Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee whose brainwave it was to explore Tagore’s music, poetry and dance in unconventional performance areas such as in an upbeat coffee shop, or a bar and now a nightclub. If one were to stick to rigid rules of performance on Tagore’s creations, then perhaps, it would not be politically correct even to take him out of Viswa Bharati and bring him to Kolkata. One should recall that the name he christened his university with “Viswa” meaning “world” and “Bharati” meaning Indian, defined globalization many decades before the term was coined. We call him Viswa Kobi meaning “Poet of the World.” To keep him confined within the narrow constraints of a stage or in someone’s spacious drawing room within the elite would be dishonouring the ‘one world’ he lived for.
It is with this idea of adhering to the universal spirit Tagore lived for and created that motivated Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee to rope in the wonderful vocalist Sasha Ghosal to present a musical performance on Tagore as part of a series of programmes planned in celebration of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. The function was held at Park Hotel’s famous Someplace Else that is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Someplace Else throbs with performances by the city’s best live bands everyday, promising different kinds of music ~ jazz to blues to country and electronica. Established artistes share space with aspiring performers. It has redefined the concept of the nightclub by bringing in unconventional performers like bauls, juxtaposing them against the blues. It has given space to city bands like Crosswindz and Insomnia, setting the pace for that universal poet Tagore. Thus the title Tagore Unplugged.
Sasha Ghosal, who lives in Canada but is presently in the city, mesmerised a largely young audience to a series of songs in Bengali, English and Spanish to underscore the universality of Tagore’s songs. “We wished to drive home the universal appeal of Tagore. To do this, we juxtaposed songs from the West that are very close to the spirit of the Tagore songs we chose to present at this programme. It was very difficult but once the listing was finalized, the rest fell into place,” said Pramita Mullick, noted Rabindrasangeet exponent and guru of Sasha who chose the songs along with Sasha and Sujoy.
The show opened with a rendering of Tagore’s Eki labanye in jazz format. For the uninitiated, Tagore was inspired by Thyagaraj’s Carnatic song Labanni Rama to write this particular number. Sasha along with his very talented orchestra also presented a rendering of the very popular Pagla hawoaa in funk style. As for the juxtaposition of a Tagore number against a Western song where the spirit remained the same even if the language, the music, the beat and the lyrics were different, we heard Chalo Niyom Mawte from Tasher Desh alongside Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, both speaking about the straitjacketed prison of rules and discipline people are trapped within. Dinguli more shonar khanchaye was sung before Don Maclean’s American Pie, both a trip back to nostalgia. Amar Shonar Bangla kept company with the Cuban folk number Guantanamera originally sung by Jose Marti. Michael Jackson’s We are the world rubbed shoulders with Bohe Nirantaro Ononto Anandodhara.
What made the young audience break into catcalls and whistles was that it was familiar with every song that was sung in the programme and this was a rare occasion that gave the audience a chance to join in and lend their voices that rose to a climactic crescendo of music and song. The best part of the programme was Ritika Sahani’s volunteering to sing Akash Bhora and Pramita Mullick rising to the occasion to belt out Jodi Tor Daak Shune Keu Naa Aashe with the audience joining in.
Sasha sang the last song Purano shei diner kawtha after singing the original, a Robert Burns creation, Auld Lang Syne put to music that inspired the Viswa Kobi to pen the Bengali translation. Sasha’s open voice, spreading across the closeted space of Someplace Else packed to capacity and more, floated across and beyond to take Tagore to the larger world he rightfully belongs to.